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Why does the blue light from smartphones damage the eyes?
Smartphones use so-called blue light. Researchers have now found that this blue light can harm our eyes. The only question is: How much does the blue light from smartphones damage our eyes?
In their current investigation, scientists from the University of Toledo in Ohio found that the blue light from smartphones is harmful to the eyes. The experts also examined how strongly the blue light damages our eyes. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Scientific Reports".
How does the blue light from smartphones affect the eyes?
According to the researchers, the blue light from smartphones is absorbed by vital molecules in our retina and triggers the production of a toxic chemical that then kills the cells. This damage could lead to large blind spots in our view, which are the hallmark of so-called macular degeneration, a disease that leads to blindness, the experts explain.
Do not use smartphones in the dark
The scientists explained that people should avoid using their smartphones in the dark if possible, because this can dilate the pupils and cause even more harmful blue light to get into our eyes. According to the National Eye Institute, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the main cause of vision loss for people over 50 years of age. The condition occurs when the so-called macula is damaged, an oval area near the center of the retina that enables sharp vision.
What forms of treatment are there?
Those affected will suffer from a blurred vision or even develop blind spots in their central vision, which can become larger as the retina dies, the experts explain. Possible types of treatment include drugs that prevent the formation of new blood vessels in the eye, and laser therapies that destroy abnormal blood vessels.
Millions of people are affected by AMD
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, about 9.1 million Americans have early AMD and 2.1 million over 50 years old have a late stage of severe vision loss. This number is expected to increase as the proportion of the U.S. population ages 65 and older continues to increase.
Study particularly focused on the retina
For the current study, the team decided to focus particularly on the retina and a form of vitamin A that occurs in the retina and converts the light into metabolic energy. Photoreceptor cells use the retina to convert light into signals that are then sent to the brain, the doctors explain. The human eye reflects UV light very well (e.g. from the sun), but it lets blue light through and the retina can absorb this blue light well, says study author Dr. Ajith Karunarathne from the University of Toledo.
Oxygen cells are converted into toxic molecules
The retina that absorbs blue light triggers reactions that convert oxygen cells into a toxic molecule that kills photoreceptor cells. The researchers tested how harmful the retinal cells that have absorbed blue light are. When retinal cells were injected into other cells, such as cancer cells and heart cells, these cells also died.
Other bright colors did not affect the retina
There was no activity when the retina was exposed to other bright colors like green, red, or yellow, explains Dr. Karunarathne. The team found a molecule, a vitamin E derivative known as alpha tocopherol, that can prevent cells from dying. However, once the photoreceptor cells are damaged, they will be damaged forever, so the vitamin E derivative currently only mitigates damage. We are therefore looking for more molecules to see if they can reverse the harmful reaction, says Dr. Karunarathne.
How can I protect myself from blue light?
As we get older, the ability to prevent retinal attacks becomes weaker and more blue light is absorbed, which can lead to macular degeneration. But there are some ways that people can protect themselves. For example, wear sunglasses that can filter both UV and blue light. Use blue light filters on your cell phone and do not use smartphones and tablets in the dark. Viewing cell phones in the dark can be very harmful because the pupils are dilated so that more blue light can penetrate and cause damage, adds Dr. Karunarathne added. (as)